New Making

Folding Fabrications

In the New Making course I was exploring digital fabrication using hybrid materials. At the beginning of the course, we were asked to choose either a traditional craft practice or a material and explore either by looking at the hand or machine techniques or processes that are involved with it. We were also asked to investigate how it can be combined with digital fabrication techniques such as 3D printing, CNC milling and laser cutting. For this project, I chose to explore origami.

Origami is a traditional Japanese craft of paper folding. The idea is to transform the flat sheet of material into a finished 3D sculpture using folding and sculpting techniques. Originally, the structures were achieved through trial and error method. However, nowadays it is possible to create complex forms using mathematics to produce pre-engineered crease patterns. 

In theory, any flat material could be used in making origami, although the only requirements are that the material needs to be flexible and it should hold the crease and remain its shape after folding.

I decided to choose this craft because I’m very fascinated by the idea of transforming laminar materials into complex 3D structures.

Initially, I experimented with a variety of materials, which included cartridge paper, tissue paper, polypropylene and textiles. The aim was to try making a simple paper crane structure from the materials, without the use of any other fabrication techniques either than folding the material by hand.

As a result, I found out that the polypropylene sheet that I used was too rigid to fold comfortably, and the textiles and tissue paper were too soft, that they couldn’t retain the folds and the overall shape of the structure.

Subsequently, I became interested in the idea of manipulating fabric using digital fabrication, specifically 3D printing. I began thinking of ways to make support for folded textiles and how to make them retain its shape.

Then I tried to use a hot glue gun as a form of a simplified 3D printer to create the support for origami, as both methods create solid plastic material, though hot glue gun method is much faster and more energy-efficient. The accuracy of the hot glue gun, however, was much lower than if I were to use a 3D printer because the nozzle is larger and the material is extruded at a faster rate. Even then, I still got some useful insights on how the fabric would behave when 3D printed and what the distance should be between each block.

After that, I created multiple 3D models of origami crease patterns using Autodesk Fusion 360 software and then prepared the files for print in Cura. I let the printer do a couple of layers, paused it to add the fabric, and then resumed the print. This way the fabric is trapped within the 3D printed structures. As a result, I got a 3D printed enhanced fabric that is now easily foldable into origami shapes.

To further develop the project I explored 3D printing on pre-stretched textile material. However, all the prints were not as successful as I hoped as I could not get the fabric stretched enough so it wouldn’t be moved by the nozzle when printed. Even still, the fabric did bend when it was released.

The next step would be to further develop the idea of self-folding origami structures.